Saturday, January 21, 2023

Pens seeking paper

Hello again and welcome to my stationery shop:

It's a lot, isn't it. You're looking at watercolour pencilcrayons, many many Gelly Roll pens (original and metallic), Micron pens in more colours than black, Kakuno fountain pens, Zebra mildliners, and quite a few Uniball Signo pens in various nib sizes. And of course, Tombow dual brush markers. If I feel the need to write in gold ink, I have three shades. It's classic Hugs-style overkill - curated, yes, but plentiful, just like my yarn stash. I guess everybody has their weaknesses.

Something I've learned about myself is that I very much enjoy making marks on paper. It doesn't even matter if they're aesthetically pleasing, though it's nice when that happens. I just enjoy the process, the way other people are passionate about making Alfredo sauce. So last year, when I treated myself to the first new Filofax planner I'd had in twenty-plus years, it was inevitable I would go down the planner rabbit hole. A dedicated place to write things down and then look at them later? Yes please.

Fear not: I am holding a tight reign on my enthusiasm today. I just thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures. And if you are interested in more detail, most of what I mention today is set up with a link.

Here's my go-to, the 'on my desk, everyday planner' where I keep my to-do lists. 


It's a pocket-sized Filofax Holborn in blue (click the link for a better picture, sorry about the terrible lighting here) and it was my Christmas present, a real indulgence. I love it so much for so many reasons, including its tidy side pockets which are the perfect size for some mini Kitta washi tapes, which I am constantly using to tape lists or notes onto a divider, or to cover up some garbled writing I don't want to be annoyed by later.

As with most Filofaxes I've bought lately, the bar code sticker on the front page proved impossible to take off without leaving a big mess, so I taped a tiny piece of scribble over and feel happy whenever I open the planner and find it. Seeing it here though, I wonder if I can't do a better job colour-matching the front page to the planner. Hmmm.

The Holborn has small (though not the smallest) binder rings, which means you have to be selective about what you keep in it. I wanted to do a better job of menu planning this year to free my afternoons from staring into the pantry instead of writing, and I wanted a planner for this purpose which would lie flat on the desk the minute I opened it. So, I treated myself to a second pocket-sized Filofax, an Original, in black. Also a set of Filofax pocket-sized dividers in 'Moonlight', and a special Tombow pen to warm the grey column headings of my otherwise beloved Peanuts Planner Company downloadable inserts - the colour is called Asparagus, which I think is a hoot.

The plants I doodled with a white Signo broad-tip pen onto black card stock are not there for pretty, but to reduce the risk of vertigo from the stripes on this particular divider. I mean - wow, that is some serious striping. 

Otherwise I love these dividers so much, I just bought a second set to go into the Filofax pocket-sized Malden I found in black, hugely discounted for about a day on Amazon. 


I do not need another planner, as indicated when I couldn't instantly think of what to use it for (not to worry, I will!) but everybody who likes Filofax planners seems to talk about their love of Maldens and I was curious. Now that I have one, I would say it has two downsides balancing out the soft leather, many pockets, and large binder rings: it is too floppy to write in easily while standing, and the zipper on the inside flap is exposed, and presses a mark into whatever pages you have in the front. 

My solutions: write while sitting down, and make a page from heavy watercolour paper to take the hit, then affix a decorative image to the right of the ding to draw away the eye and suggest the page is there on purpose, for being lovely. There are worse things to see when you open a planner. Once I had the image for the protector sheet all set I made another coordinating one, to cover the inevitable Sticky.


side note: I read a tip from a graphic designer about using up whatever watercolour paint might be left over from the day's work to mark on scraps of watercolour paper, for drawing on later. I cannot believe how much this small step elevates a nothing doodle into something that looks almost professional. 

So to tally up: I am currently using a household-task Filofax and a personal-use Filofax, both of which live out on my desk and are fantastic for quick reference. And then there is my work planner, which is a personal sized Filofax Original in black.

This is a dashboard I bought last year on Etsy, and recently I bought a new Tombow marker specifically to match it (Saddle Brown!) I cannot tell you what a difference it makes when the front pages of your planner are all tidy and coordinated, regardless of how much you have going on. 

I recently read somebody's thoughts on the 'This is your year" slogan, which came down to it being pressure to achieve your wildest dreams before the end of December. I am glad not to see it that way. For me, it's a reminder that this planner's contents reflect the year I am setting up for myself, as opposed to work I do for other people. This is *my* year. Opening this planner is like opening the door to my quiet, well-organized office. It's so restful.

Which brings us to my other Christmas present, which I chose on a whim thinking it was an inexpensive thing to have some fun with (spoiler alert: the add-on costs make it MUCH more expensive than a nice Filofax.) I was drawn in by the flowers bursting forth all over the front. It made me feel happy, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that it is, in fact, a Happy Planner:

The book alongside it is full of stickers I will be using next week, which is where the expense comes in. Even if you are not a person who needs a ton of embellishment in your planners, there is something about this system that just works (and works on people like me who can't buy one pen and get on with it.)

Happy Planner stickers are designed to fit the columns on the planners' pages perfectly, and they fall into a few general categories: bordered boxes, checklists, attractive borders for the page, and motivational messaging. The last few weeks have taught me the value of a motivational message on a sticker, as opposed to one I handwrite myself. I can recognize my writing and my brain immediately downgrades it to a suggestion with flexibility. When it's in print, the message has authority, and I listen. 

Though the dividers are heavily decorated, these planners look very plain and sad when you open them to the weekly view...


...unlike a Filofax, where the proportionally smaller pages are bordered by the beautiful colour of the planner itself. And this is by design, because the idea here is to be creative and customize the boxes for your personal needs. Boy, do those vary! Some people want nothing but their appointments, and others decorate their pages so much there's no room to write a thing. Some organize their future lives in their Happy Planner, and some use it as a memory keeper for past events. 

I wasn't sure how I'd use mine, given that I already have so many Filofaxes, but as it turns out, at least for now while I draft out a new novel project, it's a hybrid creative journal/daily schedule. And it is working for me. When I'm stuck, I let myself open the planner for a treat and admire the week as I've mapped it out so far. Sometimes I will doodle in some words and images to sum up how things are going, or even, yes, put in a relevant sticker.

Clearly I have a lot of pens available to me, ahem, so I have been changing up the colour scheme to reflect what I might need to be looking at, depending on the work I have lined up. Last week I paired pale purple stickers with a gold Gelly Roll pen, and the week before I used a blue and green washi tape with cute animals on it which happens to match my Asparagus Tombow. This coming week, it's going to be my Saddle Brown Tombow with dark green stickers from The Happy Planner and some washi stickers I picked up from Hanji Gifts, a local shop selling gorgeous Korean office supplies. (I am so buying more washi tape from them, after popping over there to get that link for you, sigh.)

Here's what I ended up with, after tidying all that away. Next week I will be writing, after three weeks of plotting and scheming and outlining and being sidetracked, and I know I will want to see dark cosy colours whenever I need a break from the screen. 

As I fill it in during the coming days, it will look a lot more intentional than the random placements you see here, but since I'm showing it to you, I'll try to explain. 

I find it helps me to set off the top section of each weekday with a border, separating my home/family responsibilities from my creative work. I didn't have any washi tape to suit what I had in mind for this week, so I drew one with my Tombow marker. Then I couldn't get a wide or straight enough line from it, so I decided to make lemonade and do a faux wood grain border, which it turns out I like enough to do again some time. I also didn't love the extra content printed on the boxes I used to anchor the top left and bottom right corners, so I put another sticker over them. 

The landscape pictures are there to nudge me into a helpful state of mind - one for the beginning of the week when I'm setting up to be super productive, one for Thursday when I get the longest run of uninterrupted work hours and will probably be questioning whether or not I have the skill to write this novel I have in mind. (I am pretty sure I do, but if I don't, I will have by the time I'm finished the first few revisions.)

I added a snail on Wednesday because I know I'll need to forgive myself by then for not doing as much as I'd hoped... or, possibly, I'll have written far more than I'd planned and will need a reminder to slow down and rest my eyes a little. Probably it'll be forgiveness, but either way I get to look at a cute snail so I am calling it a win.

I planted a few narrow motivational messages through the week, not only because I will need them, but because they allow me to set my note-taking breaks apart from each other. Last week, for example, I vented to myself about a problem I was having and ended my note with, "arg, maybe I should give up." and then I looked at what I'd written a few days before, immediately below those words. It read, "Don't give up!" I know my future self a little too well, apparently. So even though it was only me telling me to do something, I kept going. And within a few hours I pulled off what I hadn't thought was possible. That much cheerier message went into the space below the Don't Give Up message and gave me a rare opportunity to feel smug. The power of pen on paper!

The vertical sticker on the top right is actually a place to put tick marks on a checklist - kind of a clever way to present those, and the Happy Planner sticker packs are full of them. I will use it over the course of the week to build a weekend to-do list, which will include writing next week's Hug. 

And when I've posted it, I hope you'll pop back to read it, even though it turns out I didn't do a good job restraining myself about planners.

Have a great few days in the meantime, and I'll see you then!

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